First up, to maintain integrity, you need to know that the author of the book I’m reviewing this week is Better Reading’s very own Jane Tara. For those of you who also follow the adult page, Jane writes lifestyle pieces and often hosts the What Are You Reading Facebook Live segment. She’s also an author, with a number of novels and dozens of kids’ books under her belt. So, it was with a mix of emotions I read the first two novels in her new series for teens, The Lost Girls. I was looking forward to reading her book… but what if I didn’t like it?
Fortunately, that wasn’t a problem.
The Lost Girls series is about a group of friends who go travelling together after completing the HSC. One of those friends is Mae, who is gifted and still only 16-years-old. Her parents agree to let her go on the trip, but only if her older sister Dina goes too. Book one in the series, A Fish out of Water is Dina’s story.
18-year-old Dina is an elite swimmer, but her dreams of Olympic Gold have recently been derailed after she failed a drug test at a swim meet. She’d fallen for the wrong boy and he’d spiked her drink, but while she’s waiting for the decision about her future from the international committee for water sports, she’s high and dry and out of the pool. Her parents ask her to accompany her sister on an around-the-world trip. Resentful and broken, but with nothing better to do with her life, Dina boards the plane – first stop Tokyo.
Two weeks in the world’s most amazing mega-city completely turns Dina’s life upside-down. Her intensive training schedule meant she’d never really got to know her sister’s friends, despite being the same age. As she slowly lets her guard down, she’s rewarded with the friendship from Mae’s lovely besties. Free-spirited Frankie has a sense of adventure that’s contagious. Stunning Ada isn’t at all what Dina expected – she’s shy and kind and has OCD, struggles that make every step of this trip a journey of immense courage. And then there’s half-Japanese Hana, whose brother Ronin lives in Tokyo. And as Dina falls for Tokyo, she also falls for Ronin. For the first time ever, Dina begins to figure out what she wants, both in and out of the water.
But Tokyo is only the first stop on an unforgettable world trip, and as their departure date draws near, Dina must decide whether she can leave Japan, and this exciting new life behind.
Fish out of Water is a wonderful coming of age book about self- discovery, friendship and the importance of placing less focus on the destination and more focus on your own personal journey. Jane lived in Tokyo for many years and her kids are half-Japanese, so she writes about Japan from decades of experience. And it shows, as the city literally springs from the page. It’s a novel (and series) that at the heart of it shows that travel isn’t just about external geography, but that the journey is internal too. Each of the characters is experiencing a profound inner journey as they discover who they are as young adults, free from school, and at the cusp of the rest of their lives.
Dina’s sister Mae is especially interesting and I look forward to reading her book later. The relationship between Dina and Mae is lovely, with layers of complexity due to their overbearing mother. Well written, funny and moving, this is the perfect teen series.
Next in the series is Off the Map, and you can read the review here. But I’m relieved to say I really enjoyed Fish out of Water and highly recommend it for teens aged 14+.
Jane Tara is the author of five novels and over eighty children’s books, many written under the name Jane Hinchey. She’s an award-winning playwright and travel writer, published in dozens of magazines around the world. An avid traveller, she has lived in Tokyo, London, Vienna, New York and various parts of Australia. She currently lives in Bondi Beach, Sydney, with her two sons. Jane’s new series The Lost Girls merges her love of contemporary YA and travel. She can be contacted via her website or Facebook. You can also find her on instagram at @RUALostGirl
The Lost Girls series:
Sometimes you need to get lost to find yourself.
1 amazing adventure!
An exciting new YA series about friendship, travel and love…